The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle by Christina Uss

A ‘girl called Bicycle’s” improbable adventures during a cross-country bike trip shape the narrative of this fictional exploration of luck.  Ages 10-14

The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle by Christina Uss.  Holiday House, 2018, 303 pages

Reading Level: Middle grades, ages 10-12

Recommended for: ages 10-13

The girl is called Bicycle because, when she was left outside the Mostly-Silent Monastery as a  tiny child, she didn’t know what her name was.  But after she formed an attachment to the pink t-shirt with the word “bicycle” on it, that became her name.  Raised by Sister Wanda and the Mostly-Silent Monks, Bicycle learned the value of listening.  But friendship requires some talking, too, and even though she learned to talk like a normal kid, Sister Wanda is concerned that Bicycle has no friend.

She signs the girl up for a sleepaway camp called the Friend Factory (three friends guaranteed by the end of camp!).  Bicycle is horrified, and besides, she wants desperately to go to San Francisco where her hero cyclist Zbignew Sienkiewica will be making a special appearance.  Desperate times, desperate measures—meaning she slips off the Friend Factory bus with her faithful two-wheeled steed Clunk and begins a trek from Virginia to California.

This goes as smoothly as one might suspect.  Bicycle picks up some unusual traveling companions, such as a civil war ghost, a Kentucky Derby racehorse, and an eccentric inventor with a super high-tech bike.  The action is a bit random—it takes the story a while to find its center.  Also, in spite of her education by Sister Wanda, Bicycle has little sense of deity or duty; she attributes volition to the Universe, as so many middle-grade protagonists seem to do now.  Still it’s a fun story with some conversation-starting ideas about luck.  Christians like to say there’s no such thing as luck, but what does that really mean?  And how would you reply to this:

Luck is something like a river.  Good luck and bad luck flow through the world, and we’re floating in its current . . .  However, if you choose to put a paddle in the river and steer, or even paddle against the river—ah!  Then you may be able to change where you’re headed.

Cautions:  Language (2 misuses of God’s name), Worldview (the omniscient “universe”)

Overall rating: 3.75 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 3.5
  • Artistic value: 4

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Janie Cheaney

Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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